MaternalMusing

A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

Mom2Mom Buy/Sell Sites: The Art of Online Garage Sales April 8, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 12:34 pm
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Thrifty (AKA cheap) moms are usually pretty creative when it comes to ways to pinch a penny because let’s face it, kids are expensive…REALLY expensive…

One of the most popular ways to do this is to join a Swap/Buy/Sell Social Media site for your local community. Here you can list or look for gently used items that are up for grabs at a fraction of their full retail price . You can also participate in actual Mom2Mom sales in your area that are usually held at community centres or halls. These happen, on average, once a season to help you clear our your closets or stock up whatever your case may be. I myself have found some absolutely amazing deals on gently used toys and clothing for our boys. They’re always ‘New to Us’ and the boys have no idea they’ve been previously loved.

However, there are a few annoyances that come up on these sites or sales that you should learn to navigate before you post or purchase. Let me outline a few of the most common offences/concerns so you’re well prepared when wading into this bidding war!!

1. Buyer Beware!!

These sites or sales aren’t a big box stores that you can take defective merchandise back to! You’d hope most people would be honest and only list items in good working condition but you need to be prepared for those few bad apples. When purchasing something with moving parts or electronics make sure you ask the seller to demonstrate or plug in the item to make sure it is still in working order. If it comes with multiple pieces, make sure you have all of the items before leaving, and if it requires batteries keep a few in your car or purse so you can make sure everything is a-okay! Once the money changes hands it’s on you if the item you bought isn’t what you expected and you’ll be shouldering the burden of having spent money on an item that doesn’t work.

**This is especially important when purchasing Gift Cards or big ticket items like mobile phones. You want to call the number on the gift card to make sure the balance is what you were lead to believe it was before leaving and with phones you need to make sure they haven’t been ‘bricked’ or ‘blacklisted’ since there is no fixing that particular issue as it indicates that is is likely stolen merchandise. **

Trampoline

Retail Price: $119.99 – What I paid? $40. It does come with electronic parts but in this case it did not test beforehand because at that price I didn’t care. Luckily (or not…it’s pretty annoying honestly) it works perfectly!

2. Leave emotions at the door!!

Just because your tiny little baby spent many happy hours snuggled and sleeping in their gorgeous canopied swing when they were born 3 years ago doesn’t make your item more valuable. Some items are a dime a dozen on these sites (like swings, newborn clothing, bouncy chairs, etc) and no-one is going to pay a premium because of your emotional attachment to the object. While it might hold sweet memories to you make sure you price it competitively if you really want to sell.

**Stick to the facts**

Baby in Swing

Are you sure you don’t want to buy my swing?? My kid is adorable!!

3. Take accurate pictures and document ‘flaws’

You’re marketing your products here!! I understand not everyone is a professional photographer but make sure you post clear pictures that accurately portray the condition of the item you’re selling. Use natural lighting, photograph from a few angles to to show both size and form and also make sure you include photographs of any flaws/rips/stains on the item you’re selling. Sticking with our swing example: if it’s been through 3+ kids over 5 years make sure you are clear if there are any stains (hey it happens!) or if the harness straps etc are fraying. Also note if there are any parts (like music settings) that don’t work or if any toys or other items are missing. Try to stick to one item a picture unless you’re selling clothing as a lot. If you’re selling a swing we don’t need to see your messy living room, 2 kids, 3 cats and a dog all vying for attention! It makes it easier to focus on the item you’re trying to move.

**Do not use stock pictures from a website – These in no way accurately reflect the USED item you are trying to sell!!**

4. Do your research when setting price

If you’re trying to sell items that are new in package or things like movie passes you won’t be using make sure you do your research before setting a price. If Walmart is selling the toy for $12.94 new then don’t price yours at $15, not only does it decrease your chances of moving the item it also comes off as a little shady. These sites are designed for Moms to get a deal, not get fleeced by someone looking to make a quick buck. Also don’t bother listing the retail price…again I stress that your item is USED! Price accordingly.

Also if you’re selling a common item (Again: swings, basinettes, bouncy seats, bumbo chairs etc) make sure you’re aware of what other people are selling their items for. You need to be competitive especially if yours is in a more used condition or missing items (like the straps for the bumbo seat that were added on at a later date). Be honest with yourself; if someone is selling a bumbo for $20 and you price yours at $25 who is going to get that sale?

**These sites/sales are a BUYERS MARKET 99% of the time**

Indoor Coaster

Retail Price: $149.98 – What I paid? $20. The seller was honest: peeling stickers and fading from being kept outside. This is probably my most exciting deal!

5. Think about your text

You usually have a word limit in which to describe your product and make your pitch. This is just like school essays with a word limit…or twitter. Make it short and sweet….if you are putting up 2 paragraphs on a bouncy seat no-one is going to take the time to read that. Focus on the item itself, it’s condition, the price and whether delivery is an option. Be truthful and to the point.

**Avoid terms like: ‘Need gone ASAP’ or ‘want GONE’ etc. Everyone who posts stuff for sale on this site wants their crap gone…that’s why they’re listing it…**

Rocker

Retail Price: $57.49 – What I paid? $20. And the sticker is apparently still on so you know I’m telling the truth…

6. Be courteous for delivery/pickups

This should go without saying but if you are going to deliver an item then deliver it when and where you said you would. There is no excuse as an adult to leave someone waiting for you when you just decide you have better things to do. If you’re running late or need to reschedule then give your buyer the courtesy of letting them know with enough time to adjust their plans as well. Predominantly the members of this site are all mothers, we’re all busy, don’t waste someone’s time!

The same goes if you’re planning on picking an item up. If you change your mind or can’t make it then let the seller know as soon as you can. That way they can list it back up for sale and don’t take valuable time out of their day to sit around and wait for you to show up. Trust me, the seller will be WAY less pissed if you just let them know you’ve decided against the purchase than after they’ve waited at home all afternoon for you to pick it up. Don’t be a jerk!

Also if you’re nervous about meeting someone at your house or theirs don’t be afraid to suggest a neutral ‘meeting point’ where you can exchange goods! I’ve done some sales from home but I’ve also met in mall parking lots for some of my loot!

**Most of these sites actually have ways to rate you as a buyer or seller – Too many no shows or rude comments and you might find it a heck of a lot harder to move your stuff**

Blue Jays PJs

Retail Price: PRICELESS! What I paid? $2. How can you put a price on some awesome ‘Retro Cred’ Blue Jays PJs for their biggest fan??

7. ISO posts

If you are in search of (hence ISO) of a particular item then feel free to make a post so that potential sellers are aware that there is a market for their stuff! However please be conscious of the fact that the items sold on these sites or sales are USED. If you posts contains 15 different ways to say ‘Excellent’ or ‘New’ condition, then you might want to consider saving up the money and going out and actually buying it new. You need to have the appropriate mind set and own the expectation that the items you are going to be looking at aren’t going to be ‘New In Box’ pristine…unless you’re willing to pay that price at the retailer.  Also PLEASE DO NOT purchase safety items like car seats on these sites! Your child’s safety is priceless and regardless of what the seller is telling you there is no way to ensure they are in acceptable condition and accident free. If you truly have issues affording a car seat please contact your local health unit for help!

**Even items that are listed as EUC (Excellent Used Condition) have still been USED! Key word here…**

Car Seat

It is actually ILLEGAL to sell used car seats in Canada. Your child’s safety is too important to be left to some random on the internet.

8. Follow the Rules/Regulations set by the Admins or Organizers

These sites will usually have a posted note or visible guidelines on how you’re expected to conduct yourself while at the sale or as a member of the group. Mostly they’re common sense but people can to lose their chill for really bizarre reasons. Just try your best to be a good person – that’s really all they ask. Don’t endlessly bump your posts to clog up the site and make it harder for others to be seen and don’t add your items as a comment to some other seller’s post, at a lower price, hoping to poach off their interest. This site is here for your benefit, don’t ruin it for yourself and others!

Preemie 1

These sites can also link you up with awesome local entrepreneurs (like Little Lulu Photography in London, ON). This photo is from a fundraiser that was advertised through the page.

**If you have a serious issue with someone/something on the site or event please contact the Admin or Organizer privately – No-one else is interested in your drama**

Having covered the most common ‘repeat offenses’ I do want to be clear though that the sites are a fabulous way of saving money while making sure your child has everything they need for the next stage of their growth/development. We always talk about how baby items are used for so brief a time so why not pass on some savings to another family who could use the item and take advantage of some fab finds for yourself!! Just try to be a decent human being while doing so okay??

Preemie 2

All money raised from the photo shoot was donated back to our local NICU. These photos are definitely priceless to me!

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Ghosting – New Parent Style January 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 2:43 pm
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This past year I’m sure you’ve all seen that viral post that went around, ‘An Open Letter to My Friends Who Don’t Have Kids’ ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janie-porter/an-open-letter-to-my-friends-who-dont-have-kids_b_5823776.html ) and how much we, as parents, suck at maintaining social lives, or even basic adult interaction, away from our progeny, for the first few years. I’ve seen the article linked at least 10 times from various parents on my social media accounts usually with a quick note about how ‘We still ❤ you guys!!’ followed by a bunch of sappy emojiis.

Iphone Backup Oct 2015 1258

Work should not be your only ‘kid-free’ time!

As a parent, however, I have a problem with the whole essay. I think it’s a half-assed explanation to try and excuse the awful behaviour that ‘new’ parents tend to fall back on. An easy way to write off the tired #sorrynotsorry reasons why we can no longer function as the courteous, invested friend we were before we got knocked up. The letter even ends by admitting our friends deserve better and thanks them for their patience This honestly comes off sounding like our friends are waiting in queue for some type of friendship technical support,

“Thank you for your patience. Your friendship is very important to us. Please continue to hold until we’re able to tear ourselves away from our children long enough to celebrate your successes or listen to your sorrows, etc.”

Are you kidding me?? How dare we, as parents, try to blame our declined invitations, early bailouts and missed phone calls/text messages on a tiny kid, who for the most part, sleeps on and off for 80% of their day in the first six months.

Iphone Backup July 2015 Second Try 1278

Baseball is a great date!

Urban dictionary defines ‘Ghosting’ as the act of ceasing all communication in a relationship with the hope that the other party will get the hint and stop trying to text/call/hang out. A relatively new phenomenon in our ‘tech savvy’ age and can easily be applied to both unfortunate Tinder dates AND new parents. Although new parents tend to not be fully aware that they’re actively sabotaging what could be years long friendships… blindly assuming the other party will still be there when they emerge from ‘new parent’ hibernation.

Now, we’ve all done it, so admit it. We’ve used our kids as an excuse to either back out of an event, leave early from a function we didn’t want to attend, or even as a reason for not responding to emails/texts. But kids are an excuse like any other…childless friends just need to get more creative. But you know what happens when your kids are finally old enough to realize that Mom and Dad aren’t the be all end all? Your friends have moved on! After numerous last minute cancellations (Omg Baby just WOULDN’T sleep last night!), declined hangouts (I couldn’t possibly ask ANYONE else to watch my child for 2 hrs…including my partner!) or ignored messages (Well I was going to reply…but I figured you wouldn’t appreciate a text back at 3am while I was up feeding Jr) your friends have found people who actually care and want to hang out with them. I know your whole world revolves around your children but theirs, let’s be honest, does not. They also have needs and desires and when you suddenly stop acting like you care, why should they put their plans on hold until you decide you can act like a normal human being?

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Definitely didn’t take our kids to the outdoor music festival last summer…

When you’re expecting your first child, you’ll get lots of advice about how you shouldn’t let your child take away from your marriage or relationship. ‘Make sure you still take time for yourselves!’ your Aunt/cousin/co-worker will tell you at your baby shower! Well your romantic relationship isn’t the only one that will need life support as your children grow. Your friends need your time as well. And they want to know you still care about THEM too! That means that when you do finally drag your ass out of your house for a quick coffee or even a phone chat, that you take some time between delightful anecdotes and stories about your baby to ask them how their lives are going! Parenthood has a phenomenal way of making Moms and Dads self-centered conversation hogs. Remember conversations are a two way street involving input from ALL parties…if you just want to wax poetic about the fruit of your loins start a blog (*cough*)

Iphone Backup Oct 2015 300

See?!? We do have time to look at our phones!! 

Every time you cruise a mother’s board or FB group I can guarantee you’ll find at least 2-3 posts revolving around ‘Poor Me! My friends have abandoned me! They don’t understand what my life is like right now!’. Hate to break it to you sister but they likely have no idea because you haven’t made an effort to contact them or hang out since you saw the double line on your pregnancy test beyond a generic invitation to your baby shower/sprinkle/’sip and see’ to pump them for gifts.Ask yourself, honestly, have you been a good friend? Have you reached out with calls or texts to see how their lives are going? Spoiler Alert: The answer here is probably a big fat no.

Part of being a functioning adult is being able to balance many different relationships in your life. It’s admittedly a juggling act and having a baby is one more ball you have to keep in the air, but in order to have a well rounded and healthy life you need to invest yourself fully in all aspects. This means being able to parent and work (if you so choose), and build/maintain fulfilling relationships with your significant other, children AND friends. Trust me, they love and care for you too but in today’s society it’s rude to call you out on your child obsessed self-centeredness without coming off like an uber bitch. If you don’t put in the effort why should they? Just because they don’t have kids doesn’t mean they’re chalk full of free time in which to hound you for scraps of your time.

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Dressing up is good for you!!

Just in case you’re a bit rusty…here are some tips for being a good friend as a new parent.

  1. Return texts/emails/phone calls – maybe don’t call at 3am for a chat but at least a quick text indicating you got their message goes a long way.
  2. Make ‘playdates’ for yourself – Everyone needs a little social time! Even nursing moms can take an hour for coffee once a week to reconnect with the important people in their lives. I’ve done it so don’t try and feed me a line about how you couldn’t possibly….
  3. Ask about your friend’s lives – Don’t dominate the conversation with Jr’s latest milestones or bowl movements. Your friends have lives, worries and stories as well…
  4. Don’t ‘Mommy-jack’ social media – Not everyone’s FB updates, tweets or Instagrams lead back to your kids. Celebrate the milestones in your friends lives without bringing up the fact that you had sex…congrats by the way!
  5. If you make plans stick with them – Unless one of you is violently ill (and I’m talking Norwalk Virus proportions or lice…) follow through on plans to meet up! Nothing pisses people off more than last minute cancellations.
  6. Don’t assume your kids are invited everywhere – This a HUGE one! Although your friends are excited and happy for you they don’t necessarily see your baby as your ‘plus one’ to every single event going forward. Some get-togethers just aren’t kid friendly (eg spa days, adults only birthday parties etc) and they will likely not have made arrangements to ‘baby-proof’ the venue. Also taking your kids is an automatic attention-divider. Your friends want to catch up with YOU…not try and carry on a conversation between diaper changes and feedings. Even if your friends have kids of their own don’t assume everyone is bringing theirs. I’ve found that if kids are welcome it’s usually explicitly stated in the invitation.

I will note that I am by no means perfect. I’ve definitely awkwardly brought my first son to an otherwise adult event (now that I have two I actively seek events that are for grown ups only!) and I’ve been that ‘bad friend’ who has let friendships lapse while I lie on the floor in sweats feeding my toddler Gerber puffs. However I’m learning and actively trying to do better…call it a New Years Resolution for 2016! Good luck Mommies/Daddies – Let 2016 be the year we’re not complete knuckleheads!

 

The ‘Million Dollar Family’: Or ‘When Are You Trying for the Girl?’ March 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 6:46 pm
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As the mom of two young boys who rarely leaves the house for anything not grocery, work or child related I will readily admit my grasp of current terminology and slang is a bit behind. Not ‘Unbreakble: Kimmy Schmidt’ behind but pretty close. As a result, I actually had to look up a term I heard in a recent conversation, thank you Urban Dictionary, and the definition left me fuming. Let’s examine it shall we? The term was ‘The Million Dollar Family’.

For those of you not in the know let me catch you up; the ‘million dollar family’ is the ultimate realization of the 1950s primary school reader. A happily married Mommy and Daddy with two kids, specifically one boy and one girl. This is an actual term, used by actual real-live people. Apparently, unbenownst to me, this is the standard that all procreating women should strive towards, the baby-making ‘jackpot’ as it were. It implies that a family couldn’t possibly be happy with one child, or two children of a single gender, or more than two kids…either that or they should just accept that their family will just be ‘sub-standard’ when compared to ignorant social ‘ideals’.

V's Toronto Blue Jays Room

V’s Toronto Blue Jays Room

I realize that I use this blog, for the most part, to vent on issues that bother me as a mother, and as the newly minted mother of two children of a single gender this one sure takes the cake. For some reason there are a lot of people out there, mostly women, who can’t understand why I’m not utterly devastated that this time I didn’t get my ‘little princess’. To be fair I know there are women out there who have a strong preference for the gender of their child when they find out they’re expecting, but personally I am definitely not one of them.With all the issues we had staying pregnant with V, when A and I finally made the decision to try again we had absolutely zero preference on the gender of our new addition. Really, it’s true! If you’d asked us at the time our only two hopes for baby #2 would be ‘healthy’ and ‘ to term’ and luckily we came pretty darn close to both.

V not loving solids. Note the highchair...

V not loving solids. Note the highchair…

However, as soon as we started spreading the news of our newest arrival to friends and family, the number one response to our annoucement was ‘Oh this time you must be hoping for a girl!!’…

Then, prompted by the awkward silence caused by me staring at them open mouthed, many people continued putting their foot farther down their throats by listing off the various ‘benefits’ to having a little mini-me around the house: I can buy cute clothes, I can sign her up for dance or cheerleading, I can take her to get pedicures, I can play Barbies again!

Now all of these are incredibly awesome and cute, and should definitely be appreciated by those mommies of beautiful little girls, but seriously…that’s your gender preference deciding factor? Hairbows?? Have you seen how dapper V looks in his blazers and newboys hats? (Please diregard any pictures of him on Facebook/Instagram where he’s dressed himself….). V has already asked us to sign him up for dance class (He wants ballet pants, no tutus here) and I’ve learned to appreciate the intricasies of the Superhero action figure story-lines…same deal as Barbies honestly but often with less accessories and their heads (typically) don’t come off. Also, as the mom of two, it will likely be 5 years before I’m anywhere in the vicinity of a spa again and believe you me, as much as I love my kids, when I’m going for me time it’ll most definitely be for ME!

Check out the cuteness of boy clothing!! Admittedly a little short on frills and bows, but you have to admit is adorable!

Check out the cuteness of boy clothing!! Admittedly a little short on frills and bows, but you have to admit is adorable!

Now don’t get me wrong, when we found out we were pregnant I would have been equally ecstatic with a little miss but the purpose of us going for round #2 wasn’t to ‘try’ for the girl. What I can tell you though is that by the time I hit 20 weeks and had my gender ultrasound I was OVER THE MOON that we were having a second boy. My kidney issues had started, plus I was still sick to my stomach, getting larger by the second and had already been on short term leave for over 3 months, which meant my income was a fraction of what it typically was! When I saw ‘It’s a BOY!’ on that little notecard (A wasn’t able to be at that ultrasound so my OB wrote us a note) my first thought was ‘Thank GOD! Now I don’t have to shop!!’. I could just drag the totes of baby boy gear from the basement, wash it and we were good to go! Baby #2 was going to be cheap and easy! And honestly he is…this kid practically has nothing new for himself, beyond the thoughtful gifts we received from family and friends. He’s going to be a pro at hand-me downs…until he outgrows his brother…and then V will have to get used to it.

Baby A in the very same high chair! Yay for hand-me downs!!

Baby A, prepped for solids, in the very same high chair! Yay for hand-me downs!!

There are amazing benefits to having two kids of the same gender! We recycled pretty much everything from V with the exception of things he’d decimated, the cat had ruined or snap-up sleepers (don’t even get me started, those nightmare inducing things deserve a blog post of their own.) We also know exactly what to expect with diaper changes, boy growth curves and development, and other major decisions that relate specifically to boys, if you know what I mean… It also meant that my husband gets to satisfy both of his inner 9 year olds by creating one epic Blue Jays room and an equally epic Habs nursery (He maintains 1993 was the best year of his life). We are a boy centered household and couldn’t be more happy. I am the number one girl in 3 guys’ hearts and I never lack for snuggles, compliments or dance partners, how can you beat that?

V in his swing after sampling strawberries (in a very poorly chosen outfit for that type of snack I know)

V in his swing after sampling strawberries (in a very poorly chosen outfit for that type of snack I know)

Now, on a more serious note, ‘gender disappointment’ is a real thing and affects some pregnant mothers to varying degrees.These women have their hearts set on one gender, only to discover their child is quite the opposite. This is another one of the reasons I bring up the topic of the ‘ideal’ mix of kids, and terms like ‘million dollar families’. Sadly some people don’t think before they speak and as a result can be seen as well-meaning but insensitive. We’ve all seen it! Let’s think…what if you had a friend who was really hoping for a baby girl the second time around? Or even the first time around!?! It doesn’t mean they are ‘ungrateful’ for the beautiful new life they’re bringing into the world, or that they don’t love and adore their new baby. What it does mean is that they are essentially ‘mourning’ what they thought they had and you making comments about how ‘boys are still really cute’ isn’t going to help. For them this comment reads as ‘Boys are still really cute, although not quite as cute as baby girls’ and although you may not have meant that at all…it’s hard to argue with pregnancy hormones and disappointment.

A in the same swing, doing what he does best...chillin'

A in the same swing, doing what he does best…chillin’

There is also a significant amount of shame associated with gender disappointment. Most women obviously understand that you should be over the moon with either gender so long as your child is healthy, but it’s hard to quiet that inner voice that keeps insisting you dwell on what you ‘thought’ you had. Haven’t heard the term before? I’m not surprised because if any one of these women actually said, “Yes the baby is healthy but I’m a little upset it’s a boy/girl’ they’d be mocked and gossiped about. Everyone knows the only socially acceptable answer to the question ‘What gender are you hoping for?’ is ‘Either one, it doesn’t matter so long as it’s healthy!’, even if for some women this isn’t necessarily true. My advice is to stay away from gender comments or ‘predictions’ unless you’re asked. Certainly don’t add your two cents on someone’s Facebook announcement with comments about a preferred gender and for goodness sake don’t make an idiotic comment on a gender announcement itself! Stick to a sincere congratulations for a healthy and happy pregnancy because that is honestly the bottom line.

Go Habs Go!

Go Habs Go!

Another ‘touchy’ subject is the number of kids you choose to have You must know by now that everyone will have an opinion on everything you do as a parent, even if you choose never to have kids! It astonishes me that more people don’t realize that it is pretty much never appropriate to ask someone when they’re having kids, when they’re having more kids, etc. You have no idea what’s going in someone’s life and the answer might not be something they want to get into. Maybe they’re struggling with infertility. Maybe they’ve had a loss. Maybe they are dealing with a genetic counselor for possibly devastating anomalies. Maybe they just don’t want to! Unless you’re one of the two people involved in that decision (or an x-ray technician, ER nurse or paramedic) it’s none of your business. I have seen people’s anniversary announcements come up on Facebook and without fail, if it’s been two years of married bliss and no kids, someone is going to make a comment. Same with people who announce their third, fourth, fifth bundle of joy. Someone always has to be the joker to add ‘You know how this happens right??’. So long as you and your partner feel like you can emotionally, physically and financially handle more kids, feel free to do as you will!

A in his Habs Crib

A in his Habs Crib

As for personal experiences with this type of questioning, I actually had one Interventional Radiology tech (who had seen me struggle through my entire pregnancy including dry heaving in the procedure room while a doctor rammed surgical tubing into my kidney) ask me when we would be trying for the girl. After I pulled my jaw off the floor and replied ‘Never’ I was even more angry when she answered with ‘Oh, we’ve heard that one before’ before wandering away, giggling to herself. Lady, I appreciate that you think this is coming from a good place but when I say ‘never’ I really, truly mean it. Two children is what we’ve decided is best for us and our family. Pregnancy has alternately almost killed my child and then me. It, therefore, is not a risk I’m willing to take for myself, my husband or the beautiful children I’m already fortunate enough to have. I am lucky enough to have lots of friends with children on the horizon and a giant family who does their part to contribute to the worlds population. I’ll never be short of baby snuggles and toddler giggles, but I will be giving up sleepless nights, stretch marks and baby spit-up as August grows into the precious boy I can already see developing under those goobery cheeks. And I’m really honestly okay with that. So long, ‘million dollar family’…you just aren’t for us! Every family unit is perfect in their own way, who needs out-dated ‘slang’ to set up a completely unnecessary class system that only serves to alienate over half the families I know.

Have I mentioned we love baseball?

Have I mentioned we love baseball?

To wrap this one up, I just want to send a public service announcement out into the world at large and remind people that the purpose of having children isn’t to ‘collect’ the matching set, or fulfill socially acceptable census statistics, it’s to grow your family in love!

Nothing but love between these two!

Nothing but love between these two!

 

Nephrostomy Tubes: A Pregnant Lady’s Guide From a Mom Who’s Been There. March 9, 2015

NOTE: I am not a medical professional in any way, shape, or form and this entry is purely based on my experiences as a pregnant and post-natal nephrostomy tube patient. I am definitely willing to share my story but obviously the best person to address your burning questions to would be your OB, interventional radiologist or urologist.

Welcome to my personal experience related blog about nephrostomy tubes! When I first had mine inserted I tried googling the procedure for pregnant ladies and the experiences others might have had…and the pickings were mightly slim! I’m putting this out there to hopefully answer some questions or allay the fears of some other poor mommy to be who gets an unexpected accessory for their pregnancy!

What is a Nephrostomy Tube?

A nephrostomy tube is a long piece of plastic tubing that is inserted into your kidney through your back through a ‘conscious sedation’ procedure with an Interventional Radiologist. It’s purpose is to drain urine from said kidney due to a blockage of some type. The incision will probably be midway between your ribs and your hips on one (or both if you’re super lucky) side and is about 1-1.5 cm long. The tubing has a loop on the end to hold it into your kidney and will extend to about your knees when it hangs outside your body (stylish I know). On the outside end there will be a stop-cock for sterile flushing of the tube and a plastic bag that will catch your pee! There is a valve at the bottom of the bag that allows you to drain the bag. Where the tube exits your back you will either have A) some strong medical tape to pin it down and hold it inside/in place or B) a disk and stitches to secure it to your back and make sure that sucker stays put.

Personal note: I got the stitches every single time…while chasing an active 4 year old and with all my appointments etc I was taking no chances that thing was coming out…

What is a Stent?

A stent is another option that may or may not be available to you. It is another long plastic tube but it is completely internal, going from a loop in your kidney, down your ureter and ending in another loop near the top of your bladder. Again its purpose is to widen the ureter and help drain the kidney. This procedure is typically done by your urologist under general anesthetic.

Personal Note: I have actually had 4 stents in my lifetime but never one during pregnancy!

Why choose the Nephrostomy Tube?

I imagine you’re wondering why on earth anyone would choose to have the tube when you could have a discrete stent on the inside! Well there are a few notable reasons and I’ll use my own experience to help you understand why the ugly tube might be the best option for you.

A) The procedure itself

  • The tube is placed during a conscious sedation. Essentially they dope you up with a couple of drugs that will cause you to feel pretty darn awesome. Although I do remember the procedure where the tube was placed it seemed to happen really quickly and was pretty hilarious at times. The sedation wears off pretty quickly and is pretty safe during all stages of pregnancy.
  • The stent is placed during general anesthetic. This is the type where they put you out completely and where the problem lies for pregnant women. General anesthetic causes your body to become pretty darn relaxed…and this can cause pre-term labour. My issue arose 21 weeks into my pregnancy and since the viability marker (aka when the nicu will actually take on life-saving measures for baby) was still 3 weeks away we didn’t want anything to trigger that possibility. The stent is also harder to place when you have a giant belly going on so many urologists aren’t all gungho about giving it a shot.

B) Visible vs Invisible

  • The reason this conversation has even come up for you is likely that there is a blockage that prevents your kidney from draining. This can be due to kidney stones like myself or sometimes the baby just postions him/herself on top of your ureter, smooshing it down until nothing can get through. As ugly as the tube was, and as inconvenient it was having it hanging outside where it can be seen and get caught on stuff I really liked the fact that I could monitor if it was working and flush it if needed. I never had to wonder if my tube was blocked because I could measure my output and if I didn’t see anything, after drinking a few large beverages, I knew I needed to call my dr. The danger of a blocked tube or stent is obviously pain but also infection. I’ve had experience with a blocked stent in the past and the infection caused by the blocked output landed me in the ICU with a 105 degree fever which would be devastating to baby while you’re pregnant.

C) X-ray Exposure

  • The Nephrostomy tube is placed through x-rays and everyone who’s been to any clinic while pregnant has seen the signs that x-rays aren’t recommended for pregnant patients. Unfortunately sometimes it can’t be avoided and this worried me a lot! I spoke with my OB and my radiologist and was told that the big danger period for x-rays is during the first trimester and because my tube wasn’t inserted until 21 weeks gestation I was at a lower risk. Also to cause damage to the baby you’d have to have thousands of x-rays and although it felt like it at time I was only getting, on average, 2 a week. The Interventional Radiololgy team was amazing though and did their best to minimize my exposure including minimizing their x-rays and using multiple lead aprons around my belly.

My advice here to to ask a lot of questions of all of your medical teams (I saw 4 departments: Infectious diseases, Urology, OB, and Interventional Radiology). Compile the information and make the best decision for you. Given our situation I would choose the tube every single time, as hard as it was, because it was the best for me and the baby.

Initial Insertion

For the initial insertion you’ll be sedated which makes it very manageable. I remember the procedure but it seemed to fly by and although it was uncomfortable, they are cutting open your back and jamming a tube into your kidney after all, it wasn’t unmanageable.

You’ll be asked to sign off on the procedure and they’ll go over all of the risks. They are numerous but unlikely and in all my time with the tube I never had any truly serious issues. However my situation was pretty critical during the insertion and since I was on copious amounts of hydro-morphine my husband had to sign the forms for me. Make sure you have someone you trust there to help you and hold your hand the day of! It’s natural to be nervous, I bawled my way into the procedure room.

Once you’re in the room they’ll have you ‘hop’ up on the procedure table. Assuming your belly is of manageable size you will like on your front, or on your side if you’re the size of a whale like me, and they will ‘prep’ you. This involves them cleaning off the insertion site with choloro-hexadine, shaving if you’re part-yeti (jokes ladies!) and placing a drop cloth with a hole in it over the site. The hole is lined with adhesive to hold it tight to your skin and hopefully prevent you getting any blood/urine/general ickyness on yourself during the whole thing, not that you’ll care. Next they’ll start the IV meds and get you feeling cheerful.

They’ll take a few x-rays to confirm the hydro-nephrosis (aka swollen, blocked kidney) and then start freezing the area. I’m told it feels like bee-stings but since I avoid bees like the plague I can’t make the comparison. It definitely pinches/burns but just think of how much it would suck without the freezing…

They’ll them cut into your back to form the tract for the tube. This will hurt, I’m not going to lie to you, but if your kidney hasn’t drained in days I can promise you the relief you’ll feel after the kidney drains will make all of this worth it a million times over. Once the tract is open they’ll take some plastic tubing and for all intents and purposes, shove it into the new incision and into the kidney. They need to put some muscle behind it to get it in, so don’t freak out! Take a deep breath and bear it because the faster it’s in the better it is on everyone. Feel free to say a few bad words, I did and its nothing they haven’t heard before.

After the tube is in place they’ll inject some sterile dye to make sure it’s draining and then they’ll either tape or stitch it to your skin and attach the bag. Then they bandage you up and you’ll be sent whereever you’re supposed to go to sober up. After the inital insertion you need to remain lying down for about 4 hrs but since you’ll be high as a kite for a large portion of that it’ll fly by. They will give you some pain killers but I found that Tylenol 3 was adequate for managing it after. As I said, when the kidney is draining again you’ll mostly feel relief.

When can I go home?

Hospital stays suck so I can understand you’ll be anxious to go home and try to get used to your new accessory. Assuming baby is holding up okay, no infection and a tube that’s draining well you should be able to go home a day or so after it’s put in. I was in hospital for about 4 days after but after having a previous pre-term baby and pretty large stones they wanted to make sure all was going well before sending me off.

When they send you home they should arrange some type of home or community care for you because the bandages for the insertion site need to be changed once a week at the bare minimum. I changed mine every other day, and to cut down on our nurses appointments we had them order us supplies for home and my amazing husband learned how to flush, clean and bandage the area himself.

Bandaged Nephrostomy Tube! The blue is the start of the external tube although it becomes wider and clear after the stop-cock. The bump in the bandage is the disc that is stitched into the skin.

Bandaged Nephrostomy Tube! The blue is the start of the external tube although it becomes wider and clear after the stop-cock. The bump in the bandage is the disc that is stitched into the skin.

I’ll tell you now that you won’t be able to change the bandages yourself so if you’re a single mom or your partner is away from home (military, travel etc) you’ll need to enlist someone else to help you!

How long will my tube last?

My short answer? Who knows!

When I first had mine in the doctor told me that for non-pregnant patients the tube is changed, on average, every 6-8 weeks. Pregnant patients usually have it changed more frequently to the tune of every 3-4 weeks. This seemed manageable to me, but unfortunately with the type of stones I had my changes happened a bit more frequently.

The shortest I had a tube before it blocked was 4 days and the longest was 11 days, during and post-pregnancy. Interventional Radiology and I were tight.

How will I know if the tube blocks?

Remember how I said it was nice to be able to see it? Well it is! You’ll be able to tell almost right away if your tube is having issues. As a pregnant lady you’ll be drinking a ton and if you don’t see any drainage into the bag for about 2 hours you may be having some issues.

Another sign is pain…lots of pain. Sorry to break it to you but there it is. The first initial hydro-nephrosis won’t be your last, learn to deal!

Does a block automatically mean a tube change?

The good news here is not necessarily! A few times mine would be blocked because the elastic on my skirt or pants had closed the stop-cock and I had essentially closed off the valve, causing the kidney to back up. Always check your valve first and make sure it’s oriented properly. If it is wrong, just open it up and savour the immediate relief.

The other option is to flush your tube with 10mL of sterile saline.

But how do I flush my tube?

Your care nurse or your interventional radiology team should provide you with either pre-filled sterile saline syringes or sterile syringes and a bottle of saline solution. The following list is how my husband flushed my tube for me, obviously if your dr gives you different instructions do those…this is the internet after all and you don’t know me from Adam.

To flush your tube you will need:

An alcohol wipe

Pre-filled syringes or syringe/solution

This is much easier to have someone else do as well, since if the tube is partically blocked this will be painful.

  1. Take off the cap from the stop-cock and wipe the port with the alcohol wipe.
  2. Fill syringe with solution if needed. Push plunger up to get rid of any air bubbled in the syringe.
  3. Screw the tip of the syringe into the port and switch the valve to shut down the drainage to your external tube (This allows you to flush up into the kidney…starting to see why this is painful?)
  4. Push down on the plunger with force and push about 7 ml of the solution up into your kidney.
  5. Change the valve to block the kidney and flush the other 3mL down the line to flush your external tube.
  6. Open the valve to it’s normal state.

If the tube has been blocked for a little bit the flushed urine will be hot to the touch if you hold your tube and you might see larger pieces of sediment in the line/bag than you normally would. Also it’s incredibly hard to force yourself to do things that will cause you pain, this is why its easier to have someone else flush it for you. The force you use when flushing up into the kidney hurts but its for the best.

Personal Note: I flushed my tube twice at a time, 6 times a day to try and prevent blockages but as I said before I blocked very easily and very frequently. Some patients never need to flush their tubes….lucky women…

Okay what is a tube change like?

For most people the tube change is a breeze and will only take 5-10 minutes. It is pretty similar to the inital procedure but you typically will not recieve any sedation or painkillers. I didn’t know this until I went for my first change and I was not happy.

I recommend asking your dr for a prescription for some type of painkiller and take a dose about 45 mins before your scheduled procedure. This helped make the changes more manageable but I’ll be honest with you and tell you that they’ll never be painless or fun.

For the tube change you’ll hope up on the table and lie either on your side or front like the initial insertion. They’ll prep you the same way with the drop cloth etc. I’ll tell you here that you want to wear really ratty clothes for this. If your tube is blocked you will likely end up wearing blood, urine or both, because as soon as they pull the blocked tube out all that backup looks for the fastest way out. There is a splash zone for this stuff.

If you had stitches placed to hold the tube in place they won’t actually need to be re-done every time. I had 23 tube changes in my 6 months with the tube and my stitches were only done about 5 or 6 times. They will likely just remove the disk but leave the ones in your skin there.

For the procedure itself they will check the tube by injecting the same glow-in-the-dark dye. They will then thread a flexible wire down the tube into your kidney to hold the tract open while they change the tubing. Once the wire is in they’ll yank the first tube out and shove the new tube in. Wham bam, thank you ma’am! It is actually pretty quick assuming you have a partial or soft blockage. You’ll be rebandanged and walking yourself to your car in no time.

Note: If you’re far enough along your baby will probably be trying to express his or her distaste for the procedure by kicking up a storm and or experiencing some Braxton-Hicks contractions. It’s super awesomely fun when you’re not only having someone messing with your internal organs but you’re also having contractions at the same time.

But what if I have a knot? Or a hard blockage?

Then your appointment just got a little longer and a little more painful.

For a hard blockage if they can’t get the flexible wire down the tube they’ll try a stiff wire…and put some muscle behind it… Feel free to ask for a pillow to bite down on and don’t be ashamed if a few tears escape. There’s nothing more fun than having someone repeatedly trying to ram a wire through a hard blockage into your already swollen, blocked kidney. Try to remember how much better you’ll feel when it’s cleared up!

If the block is too solid and the wire just isn’t going to work they will use a higher gauge tube and slide it over the original tube to hold the tract open when they pull it out. This hurts a little more because the tract isn’t quite that wide so there is some stretching happening there while they try to thread it over.

The procedure to change a fully blocked tube takes a bit longer and you might be there for 20-30 minutes instead of 10-20.

Now as for a knot in the tube, inside the kidney, just yikes.This is incredibly rare but if it happens, like it did for me, you’re in for a bad time. To get the tube out they need to undo the knot, because they won’t be pulling that tube out as is because it could cause some serious damage. When they had to do this for me I was on the table for 1.5 hrs and it was miserable. When they are finally able to undo the knot you’ll probably find that the tube has blocked completely so see the previous paragraphs for what happens then. As I said though, this is rare. My dr said I was the first knot he’d seen in 5 years of doing the procedure.

How can I help prevent blockages to my tube?

Well to be honest there isn’t much you can do except accept that if your tube is going to block then it’s going to block. You can’t control how the baby lies or if small pieces of sediment or stone will block the tube.

Some pieces of advice I got which might have helped (who knows!) are:

  • Strong citrus beverages like pure lemonade or grapefruit juice
  • daily flushing of the line.
  • Making sure your valve is open, don’t sleep on/smush the line when you lie down, don’t wear tight clothing that could cut off the line.
  • Ask your Interventional Radiologist to use a larger guage of tubing for your nephrostomy tube. I started with an 8 and ended with a 12 which seemed to help.

How can I hide my tube? It’s ugly! I’m pregnant and already feel gross enough!

Yes nephrostomy tubes are ugly and when I first got home with mine I cried. I didn’t want to be stared at in public! Also it was mid June in southern Ontario and I didn’t want to abandon all of my summer clothing. I wore a lot of wide legged yoga pants and long maxi dresses/skirts to hide my tube.

Honestly though, about 1month in I stopped caring what people thought and usually had it hanging out. If it made them uncomfortable too bad for them, I wasn’t going to go out of my way to make other people feel better.

Do you have to pin up your nephrostomy tube?

When you get your tube you’ll be given a large kilt pin or elastic/velcro garters that will help pin it up or hold it to your leg. Lots of people love these but I did not. I found that they actually kinked my tube and it wouldn’t drain properly. Also the one and only time I pinned my tube I got it caught on a desk and snapped that sucker in two. My 4 year old definitely learnt some new words that day…none of which can be repeated in his kindergarten classroom.

Pin it or not, I say do whatever you’re more comfortable with. My tube was usually just hanging down my side, flapping in the wind.

How do I sleep/live with my nephrostomy tube?

Being pregnant you’re probably not sleeping on your stomach anyways so this will definitely limit your sleeping abilities a little more. My tube was on my right so I found I could sleep on my back (proped up for heartburn which had nothing to do with the tubes but sucked anyways) or on my left side. The tube would hang over the right side of the bed and I was careful to not catch it on the side of the matress when I got up to pee.

The bigger danger is actually car doors, I actually got mine slammed in it more than once and lost a bag during a drive once as well. Embarassing…

Also showering sucks because you can’t get the dressing wet. We had it organized so we’d tape a Ziplock bag over it with medical tape and then change the bandages right after. Needless to say I took less showers than normal because it just became too much work.

Are there any other potential issues for nephrostomy tubes in pregnancy?

Again, I’m not a doctor, but I’m sure there are a few. I had two of the bigger ones though and I can speak a bit to those

  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension: Any issues with your kidneys can cause your blood pressure to rise, which mine did during pregnancy. It’s actually why my little man arrived 5 weeks early. I had to be induced when my bp reached 192/115. It’s also hard to test for pre-eclampsia with a nephrostomy tube cause 9 times out of 10 you’ll already have protien in your urine, the major marker for pre-e.
  • Kidney Infections/Pylopnephritis: Having a blocked kidney, with or without stones, increases your chance for infection. Add to that the fact that someone will be getting their hands on your kidneys for tube changes it’s probably something you’ll run into. I had a recurring infection that required a PICC line and portable IV pump which gave me an IV dose of antibiotics 3 times a day. But that’s another post. With all the hospital treatments you could be exposed to different antibiotic resistant infections as well which might involve more IV drugs but usually for a shorter course of treatment.
PICC line setup for IV antibiotics through an 'at home' pump.

PICC line setup for IV antibiotics through an ‘at home’ pump.

So this sounds terrible. Are there any upsides to have a nephrostomy tube while pregnant?

Well for one you won’t have to get up to pee as much as other pregnant ladies! Half (or all if you’re unlucky enough to have two tubes) of your urine drains to a bag which gives your bladder a break.

Also you’ll likely get lots more ultrasounds to make sure your baby is okay and getting to see that little thing wiggling around reminds you why you’re doing this to yourself and why it will all be worth it in the end.

You also get lots of monitoring! Bring entertainment.

You also get lots of monitoring! Bring entertainment.

The main benefit though is that you won’t be in excrutiating pain from a blocked kidney and if you’ve ever experienced this that is enough in and of itself. The tube isn’t forever, it just helps you get through until your problem can be fixed!

But it’s not fair! Other people have such amazing pregnacies and mine sucks!

I thought it, and I’m sure you will too but it will do you absolutely no good to get down on your situation. You can go home and cry about how unfair it all is but at the end of the day you’ll still have the blocked kidney, you’ll still have the tube and you’ll still need to have it changed. You can choose to be miserable about it or you can choose to ride it out with your eye on the prize.

Make some new friends at the hospital! Poke fun at your tube/youself! Decorate the bag with sharpies! Online shop for baby stuff! Prep a baby book letting the kid now they owe you for this for the rest of their life! The time will pass a lot quicker if you try to find a silver lining.

What about labour with the nephrostomy tube?

My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural when I was in labour. I don’t feel like I need to be a hero and from my experience with my first I knew I’d be a much nicer/happier person with the drugs. I did meet with the anesthesiologist around 30 weeks to make sure it was possible with the location of the tube and it wasn’t an issue at all.

I also worried that the tube would get caught or cramp my style when I was having to push etc. But to be honest I didn’t even think about the tube when I got to that point. Contractions have a funny way of taking your mind off anything else!

Okay so when can I get the nephrostomy tube out?

This really depends on why you had it in in the first place! If it was just the baby lying on the ureter then it should come out pretty quickly after delivery, probably before you leave the hospital but again I’m no doctor and I’m sure yours will let you know the game plan.

If, like me, yours is in place due to large kidney stones, these unfortunately don’t resolve themselves after delivery. I had my surgery to remove the stones scheduled for 2.5 months after delivery so I had time to recover, complete pre-surgery testing and set up a nursing routine and bond with my new baby boy. I thought I’d be in a bigger rush to get it out but it was nice to be able to setup our routine before having yet another procedure and hospital time.

What is the final removal like?

I really can’t speak to a regular removal but I can tell you about mine that followed my stone removal surgery.

After the surgery I had both a larger nephrostomy tube and a catheter. The larger tube was to help drain any pieces of stones left in the kidney and the catheter was to help get my body used to drainig the kidney through my bladder again as opposed to my back.

Aftermath of surgery! The blue clip on the lower left attached the tubes to my gown so I wouldn't trip on or pull them. The two bags attached to the pole were for the catheter and larger nephrostomy tube.

Aftermath of surgery! The blue clip on the lower left attached the tubes to my gown so I wouldn’t trip on or pull them. The two bags attached to the pole were for the catheter and larger nephrostomy tube.

Two days after my surgery I had an x-ray to confirm the blockage was gone and then a doctor showed up at my bedside to pull out the tube. He had me take a deep breath and basically yanked. He then secured a pressure bandage to the site. They didn’t stitch it closed at which kind of freaked me out after having the site open for 6 months but to be fair it was a small-ish incision. The whole thing was pretty painless and very anti-climactic.

After 4 hrs they checked the bandage and there was about 2 inches of discharge so they kept the catheter in. 8 hrs after the removal the bandage was dry so they pulled out the catheter and told me to empty my bladder every 30 mins for the next few hours. Your kidney will empty at the point of least resistance so it’ll help seal the hole if you keep it empty!

The next morning the hole was almost closed up and the bandage was clear and I got my discharge paperwork. 6 months and I finally got to leave the hospital without any tubes!

So now what?

When you have the tube removed you will literally just cover the site with a bandaid for a few days until it closes completely and then you’ll probably have some scaring around the site.

I’ve had my tube out now since the last week of Nov 2014 and my scar is still pretty red 3.5 months later. It’s on my back though and after two kids I’m not rocking many crop tops or bikinis so it doesn’t bother me all that much.

Nephrostomy tube scar approx 3.5 months after surgery

Nephrostomy tube scar approx 3.5 months after surgery. The large dark spot was the insertion side and the small, dotted scars around it are from the various locations stitches were put in to hold the tube in place.

So there you have it.

I’ve tried to cover all of the things I can think of but I definitely am open to suggestions or more questions that you might have! Having a nephrostomy tube while pregnant is no picnic but it could always be worse! You’ll get through it because you have to and you get the ultimate reward at the end. Take your time to feel a little sorry for yourself but don’t let it take up your whole life and try to enjoy and have as normal a pregnancy as you can! You don’t want to look back with any regrets.

 

Introducing August!

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 2:54 pm
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I’m a little behind the blogging but for a very good reason! We did it again! Our second beautiful son arrived 5 weeks before his due date on Sept 12th 2014 and has been keeping us pretty busy.

Naively I thought that V’s pregnancy took the cake and that there was no way a second one could be any worse… God must have laughed hysterically at that one and proceeded to challenge us every step of the way as we fought to keep A on the inside long enough to have a fighting chance! They do say you can’t have a testimony without a test and we definitely had a few of those. It was all worth it in the end, especially when he gives me a big slobbery grin.

Baby A just moments after his arrival before he checked into his suite in the NICU.

Baby A just moments after his arrival before he checked into his suite in the NICU.

I’m going to sidetrack a bit at first to put up an informational blog about one of the biggest challeneges we had with baby A’s pregnancy but I will definitely fill you in on his exciting arrival in due time!

 

The Big Question November 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 6:41 pm
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This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking about writing, but it’s probably one of the more difficult ones for me since it’s not quite as much about V and more about me as his mother and previous human incubator.

This is me. Hi! (All photos for this post courtesy of Grace Barnhart Photography)

This is me. Hi!
(All photos for this post courtesy of Grace Barnhart Photography)

As soon as I left the safe cocoon of my mat leave and started interacting with other adults the most common question I get after telling them I have a child is, “So when are you guys having another?” Now let’s be honest for a second, this isn’t really anyone’s business besides me and my husband but I can understand why it gets thrown out so often to us moms.

For some reason, society seems to think that children couldn’t possibly be happy, well adjusted or well behaved without siblings. FYI all of those assumptions are a bunch of crap, and this isn’t based on my biased opinion as V’s mom, it’s based on my adult friends who grew up as only children and still managed to survive and succeed into adulthood. Shocking I know! Anyways, end of that rant but let’s examine this question a little more closely shall we? I also want to point out that this post reflects my opinions entirely, if you want A’s you’ll have to ask him! It also covers some topics related to a woman’s baby-making parts so for the easily squeamish please come back for future updates.

A and I are the happy, proud and lucky parents of a fantastic, healthy and energetic three year old boy. When I first went back to work V had yet to sleep through the night; 18 months was our magic marker. I am still a little bitter at all those mom’s who had night sleepers at 6 weeks. At this point I knew my limitations as a mother and was aware that although each child is blessing I wouldn’t be the happiest camper balancing an active toddler and another sleepless infant. I have so much respect for those mommies with kids close together but I know that it’s not something I would win any awards for. I love my sleep!

Active little man!

Active little man!

A and I had also discussed V’s development when the conversation of more kids came up. We were sure that we didn’t want any more until we knew that V was developing normally, didn’t need any therapies or surgery and that we would be free to dedicate time to two children without having V suffer should anything come up as a result of his dramatic entrance. We knew that V would be followed very closely for 3 years to make sure he was on track with other kids his age and there are such a wide variety of things that can result due to prematurity, resuscitation, oxygen tubes, etc that we wanted to make sure V would have 100% of our time, money and attention should anything come up.

The BIG decision for us in regards to more children involved me though. My body was my enemy during my pregnancy with V and I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to your self confidence as a woman when the one thing you can’t do properly is (from a biological perspective at least) your one purpose for existence! I mean, all of these other women get pregnant, sail through, and deliver without a care in the world, why not me! The big wake-up happened at my 6 week follow up with my high risk OB. I went in hoping for some answers on why V made his early entrance and although we definitely weren’t thinking of more babies at the time, find out what the future would hold ‘just in case’. I left greatly disappointed. I was told that they had absolutely no idea why V was early. There are just so many reasons that some babies make their way into the world earlier than others that they couldn’t even guess. What my Dr was able to tell me though was what our lives would look like should we decide to have any more children and trust me when I tell you that it’s no picnic.

First I will need to be referred to my high risk OB by 16 weeks of any subsequent pregnancies for weekly appointments to follow on the fetus’ progress and the length of my cervix. This means being subject to ‘trans-vaginal ultrasounds’ on a weekly/biweekly basis to see how tightly my body will hold onto any pregnancy. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to load up your bladder, have someone insert a bizarre looking wand into your lady parts and wait to see a specialist on a weekly basis. I might as well move in to the hospital…

OH WAIT! That’s what will likely happen should we decide to take this leap of faith again. I will likely be admitted for observation and strict bed rest by 30 weeks of pregnancy, depending on what my ultrasound results show. They can’t continue the trans-vaginal ones in the third trimester because it’s too dangerous to the fetus, so you get to sit/lie around and wait. And having been there before I can’t tell you how much that idea thrills me. Weeks away from my family at home, alone, lying on a hospital bed and crossing your legs? Good times.

Did I mention the stitch they may put in? One thing every pregnant lady looks forward to is surgery early into her pregnancy. Again, based on the results of any future ultrasounds, I may have to have a circlage put in to hold my cervix closed as the fetus gains weight. My Dr believes that the most likely cause for my water breaking early with V is an incompetent cervix. Essentially when V gained weight my body became incapable of supporting it and he, for all intents and purposes, ‘fell out’. The surgery in and of itself presents possible pregnancy ending complications but without it we may run the risk of going into labour before the viability marker (24 weeks). Prior to that point no life-saving efforts will be undertaken and we will be left dealing with the terrifying spector of infant loss.

The other concern my OB had for me was the fact that my contractions started with frequency and pain at 19 weeks. This indicates low hormone levels which can stimulate my body to trigger labour early. The only way to try and prevent them going forward will be to obtain weekly injections of synthetic progesterone to trick my body into behaving as it should. This will be along with my rH negative vaccines since I’m one of the 5% of the population that carries a negative blood type. Now I don’t mind needles but the prospect of weekly shots in my behind doesn’t exactly fill me with glee.

Watching my boys! Life is always better as a participant.

Watching my boys! Life is always better as a participant.

Even with all of these precautions that they would be willing to undertake for me there is no guarantee that they will work and A and I have to face the reality that any future pregnancies could have devastating outcomes around the 21-24 week mark. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to bury a child. Any parent knows that regardless of how your child comes into this world as soon as you’re aware that you’re going to be responsible for that precious tiny life there isn’t much you won’t do to protect it. How would I be able to deal with forming an emotional bond to a child I wouldn’t be able to bring home? Another question is how we would deal with another preemie. We have a very high likelihood of having another early arrival because I unfortunately experienced both forms of premature labour with early contractions and early water breakage. What if a second child did experience complications and subsequent physical and developmental delays. Are we in a good position to dedicate the time and attention to a child with special needs as well as V? We know that love would never be an issue but do we live in a area that provides good services, what do our benefits cover etc.

Daddy always makes it all better.

Daddy always makes it all better.

This would also have HUGE implications on our day to day life for the duration of the pregnancy. I would be on bed-rest and off work, likely from 16 weeks onwards and A would have to take over pretty much all home and work responsibilities. He would be responsible for all of V’s care and most of mine as well, and I do struggle as to whether that’s a fair burden to put on him when he does so much for us already.

Along with all of these concerns that apply to our personal situation we also deal with the normal questions parents ask themselves when considering adding to their family regarding time, attention, finances etc. It really is one heck of a process isn’t it?

Loving my baby boy!

Loving my baby boy!

That being said, A and I have not made the final call in expanding our family. I, personally, would love to have another but I would also love a ‘Magic 8 Ball’ to predict what the outcome to another pregnancy would be for me. I know each expecting mama experiences uncertainty but having come so close to losing something so precious I just don’t know if I’d be able to survive. I do know several of the NICU mommies I met have had amazingly successful, full term, subsequent pregnancies, but I just worry that that won’t be me. I think an important aspect of any possible future pregnancy would be to head in thinking that it will be normal and roll with the punches if and when they come up but with the intervention I’d need I think pretending would be difficult.

Regardless of our decision however, A and I are so blessed to be as lucky as we are. If V remains an only child his whole life then we’re happy with that. How can you be disappointed when you’ve already hit the parent jackpot?! I sure do love that little man! I mean all of these ‘what-ifs’ only really come into play if pregnancy does even happen for us in the future. All of those couples who deal with infertility and miscarriages are a testament to the fact that pregnancy is never ever a sure thing no matter where your heart lies.

To wrap up though, I guess going back to the original question my answer for the time being needs to be, “We haven’t quite decided yet, thank you.” and then do my darnedest to change the subject back to the awesome little kid we already have in our life!

Family <3

Family ❤

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions! November 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 1:09 pm
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As a parent you are suddenly, ready or not, either the sole or partnered decision maker in the life of one very small human being. And oh the decisions you need to make! Do you want to vaccinate? Circumcision? Formula or breast? Co-sleeping vs crib? Do you believe in self-soothing? Do you pierce ears? Rear-facing or front-facing car seats? And those are only a few! Don’t even get me started on the rows and rows of baby products (Cloth? Organic? Generic?). And when you’re a first time parent you obviously have no experience to draw from in terms of your preferences! It’s a whole new world of trial and error and eventually you figure it all out…honest!…well mostly anyways!

Then they suddenly hit the year mark, two year mark, three year mark…and then comes some of the BIG decisions! Are you planning on heading back to work? How do you feel about daycare? What are your plans for your child’s schooling? These decisions can have longer lasting impacts on both you and your child. Forget Pampers vs Huggies…let’s talk about private vs public schooling or, if you really want to boggle your mind, home daycare vs daycare centre vs stay at home mom vs family care…
A and I have already tackled some of these challenges and I fully admit there were some trials, some errors plus we still haven’t even picked a school for V with registration looming in the new year.

Work vs Stay at Home

The first decision we had to make as a family, when V was 1 year old, (so blessed to live in Canada with our full year mat leave!) was one of the easiest to make. Financially I had to go back to work although I had the luxury of only doing so part time. The company I worked for prior to leaving on my parental leave actually laid off their workforce during my time at home so I had to look for new, gainful employment when my benefits ran out.
I chose to return to my background in retail and began to work for a large box store with locations and banners in the US and Canada. Although they were, for the most part, flexible around appointments and family time, the work environment was not a good fit and we parted ways about 8 months in. I then returned to being a stay at home mom for the summer while looking for a new opportunity that would allow me to use my education and skill set. I took the summer to spend a lot of time with V, playing outside, taking in activities in our area, and spending time with my husband. It was a great time at home but I really did miss adult interaction. 1 year olds really aren’t that conversational and require much less hovering than an infant so I was anxious to return to a working environment.
I ended up being offered a fabulous opportunity with a major financial institution in Canada and started work full time in Sept of 2012. The scheduling was originally a little less flexible than part time retail but after a year of moving forward with the company I was offered a Monday to Fri, mornings only, shift within my business and I’m now proud to say that I’ve found my niche…I’m one of those lucky moms with a career she loves, part time, and am able to spend my afternoons and evenings playing (aka napping) with my little guy at home!

 

Sleepy snuggles with Mommy!

Sleepy snuggles with Mommy!

 

Home Daycare vs. Daycare Centre vs. Family Care

Now this decision also involved a few trials and errors until we came to an arrangement now that makes everyone happy!

When I originally went back to work we had started with family care (aka having a family member who lived very close watch V while I worked). It was important to A and I that V become close to his family and spend time building relationships with his grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. We ‘traded’ watching V for me tutoring my niece with her school work in the evenings, and it worked well for the first few months. Unfortunately with the stress of working a job that wasn’t fulfilling, illness in both households, and V being a little slow to socialize/talk, we decided that after I finished my summer at home we would look into more formal daycare options.

A licensed daycare centre was never an option for us as the waiting lists are long, and the fees were high. They also do not have very flexible hours and require intense contracts upon your enrolment in the facility. We therefore decided to support a family friend who was thinking of starting her own home daycare as a way of being a business owner and spend time with her own young family. We had had play-dates together previously, our children were close in age and it seemed like a great fit. The fee was fair and the hours fit well with our work/life balance. We started with an original 6 week trial period and eventually moved into a full contract for 4 days a week. The daycare was close so I walked with V in the mornings and A picked him up on his way home in the evenings while I was at work.

Sensory corn bucket at Daycare

Sensory corn bucket at Daycare

It was everything we hoped it would be, V was socially engaged, involved in a wide variety of activities from a visit to a local pumpkin patch, story time at the library, playgroups at the local Early Years Centre and making friends he truly loves. However starting the week before Halloween someone in our household was sick every single week until the middle of May. Being a small kid, having weaker lungs, and spending most of his time sheltered at home for two years did V no favours when he began interacting with the germ farms that are other little kiddos! We had a total of two stomach bugs, 4 ear infections, 1 ruptured ear drum, a febrile seizure, pneumonia, croup and more colds than we can count. I sincerely hope to never, ever go through another year like this ever again! As a family we were worn down emotionally and physically.

It also brought our finances into focus as well. As part of our contract with the daycare provider, unless she cancelled, we were required to pay for each day V missed due to illness or otherwise. This makes business sense but with V being sick as often as he was (and obviously for the health of other children we could not send him to daycare ill!) we literally paid hundreds of dollars last year in daycare fees for days we spent at home with him. What made it all the harder was that I was usually the one staying home with him and I did not receive pay on those days. I was also receiving coaching at work for missing so many scheduled shifts. It was hard to justify paying out of pocket for so many sick days when we definitely didn’t have the money to spare. I was also suffering from a lot of job related anxiety due to missing so many days with V or being sick myself. It was at this point we began to discuss alternate daycare options that might be available to us.

Appleland with Daycare

Appleland with Daycare

The other issue that came up was the differences in parenting styles that weren’t evident in play-dates but did become a stumbling block as V spent more time at daycare. A and I are confident and happy with our parenting style and the same goes for our daycare provider. All of our children are happy, well behaved and functional tiny members of society! Our provider is an excellent parent with strong values but, as wonderful as those are, they are very different from ours. This became an urgent issue for us as V was receiving conflicting messages at home and daycare which caused him to act out emotionally and created conflict between us and the provider. If you are looking at a home daycare I definitely do recommend seeing if you can observe a day in the life at the daycare or obtaining parental testimonies from other parents who utilize the service. As awesome as it may seem through a meeting or website you must see if it will fit your lifestyle as it is never healthy for a child to be caught in the middle of two vastly different child rearing philosophies! After a meeting we decided to give our notice and part ways at the beginning of the summer however the provider, due to upcoming business opportunities, decided to terminate the contract early. We do remain friends, as well as V with his daycare buddies, and are all in a more stress-free place!

Figuring out his shapes!

Figuring out his shapes!

V has returned to family care and is once again a happy and more even tempered young man! He gets to spend time one-on-one with one of his favourite Aunties and she gets to love on him daily! He is spoiled with hugs and kisses from his cousins and their neighbourhood friends which helps maintain his social skills and we are proud to say that he has yet to be sick this year and we’ve passed the Halloween marker (knock on wood!). The arrangement is definitely a great fit for our current lifestyle and I’m so happy that V has found a place that he truly is one of the family.

V and his cousin K spending some quality time!

V and his cousin K spending some quality time!

So as I said, definitely trial and error! We don’t regret any decisions we made in the process of finding our ‘best fit’ but it did take us almost two years to find where we were meant to be! So don’t feel bad if the same happens to you 🙂 No judgement here!!

Private School vs Public School (Sub decision: English vs French Immersion)

This is our next BIG decision as parents. We have already decided that V will be enrolled in the French Immersion program offered by our public school board but this does not start until he’s eligible for Senior Kindergarten in the year he turns 5. For now we need to decide what we’re comfortable with for his enrolment in Junior Kindergarten which starts next September.

The local public school he is in the district for is, and this is no exaggeration, one of the worst schools in the province of Ontario. Due to local school closings it is now a ‘mega-school’ that draws from a large amount of low income housing, deals with a high number of learning/behavioural difficulties and has an extremely large student population. For example this year there are 5 split kindergarten classes with approximately 30 students each. That is a total of 150 kindergarteners alone and the school goes all the way to Grade 8! They have a high teacher turnover and there has been violence in the kindergarten classrooms between children. Now I’m not talking the occasional emotional outburst where someone gets clocked on the head, I’m talking pencil stabbing related incidents (you learn the darnedest things from hairdressers with similar age children…). I’m sure you can see why I’m a little concerned about registering my under-weight, under-sized, loving child, in a school where he could be completely steamrolled by his classmates or even older kids. I wouldn’t say I’m a helicopter parent by any means (and please people who know me feel free to tell me if I ever become ‘that’ parent) but I do have what I believe are fairly reasonable concerns for my child’s well-being at a school that will have him for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 8 months out of the year. We do plan on attending the orientation nights and I will be prepared with questions!

Getting ready to head to school...in a year!

Getting ready to head to school…in a year!

We are also examining other options such as a private school or nursery for the one year. We aren’t rolling in the dough but hopefully we could make the tuition payments work, or apply for scholarships or grants so that V is able to attend. There are a lot of great options in the city we live in so we are really spoiled for choice. We do also have the option to hold V out until SK because kindergarten isn’t a requirement for children in the province of Ontario. However V is a bright, social kid who already asks us when he gets to go to school so we really want to make sure he attends as soon as we can find the right environment.

I will definitely update as we get closer to making our final decision on this one but for right now all we can do is inform ourselves, wait it out and see what happens in the new year!

So I guess there are no really ‘small’ decisions in the life of your child but I’m definitely finding as V gets older the decision have a more long running impact on his life and his behaviour and A and I are still doing our best to manage all of the information that gets thrown at us as parents. I say just go with your gut, don’t be afraid to admit you made the wrong decision, correct it and take the lesson onto the next big one that comes up! Best of luck Mamas and Papas!!